What are the lucky foods for Chinese New Year?

Top London chef Jeremy Pang shows how to make Braised Pork Belly in Fermented Tofu in Chinese New Year food video series with The Independent

Mars El Brogy,Marta Portocarrero,Minos Hemrich
Friday 27 January 2017 15:00
How to make braised pork belly in fermented tofu with Jeremy Pang

Because of their symbolic meanings, certain dishes are eaten during the Chinese New Year.

These lucky foods are served during the 16-day festival season especially New Year’s Eve, which is believed to bring good luck for the coming year.

Traditional Chinese New Year foods and dishes include noodles, dumplings, fish, spring rolls and niangao (glutinous rice cake). They symbolise happiness, longevity, an increase in wealth and prosperity as well as higher income or status.

In this video, School of Wok’s Head Chef and Founder Jeremy Pang, shows how to make Braised Pork Belly in Fermented Tofu, a dish symbolising joy, renewed life and prosperity.

Jeremy said: “It’s a real family dish.

“This is the type of food that my dad would cook for me when I was much younger.”

“It’s a great alternative for a Sunday Roast as well,” the 2015 winner of Best Young Rising Star at The British Cookery School Awards added.

Jeremy Pang's Braised Pork Belly in Fermented Tofu

Ingredients like fermented tofu and eggs provide a great way of thickening sauces without the use of corn flour. The fermented red tofu used here has an intensely salty flavour if eaten alone, which is very much an acquired taste. However, when it’s made into a paste and cooked into this braising liquid, it creates a silky finish to the sauce and adds a real depth of flavour. This dish, a favourite of my dad’s, is a family meal we had often, along with one or two stir-fries on the side. Its intense flavour is perfect paired with rice and something light and fresh such as stir-fried cabbage or pickles.

Serves: 4

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients

4 eggs

2 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 x 600g pork belly

approximately 450ml hot water

The Sauce

1 tablespoon of fermented tofu, plus 1 tablespoon of fermented tofu liquid

1 tablespoon fermented tofu liquid

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon Chin Kiang black rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Preparation

For the sauce, put the fermented tofu and liquid into a small or ramekin and crush with the base of a teaspoon to form a paste, then mix together with the dark soy sauce, black vinegar, sugar and sesame oil.

Hard-boil the eggs and then peel them. Once peeled, cut three small lines vertically into each egg while keeping them whole – this allow the sauce to soak through the eggs while they are braising.

Finely chop the garlic and set it aside.

Cooking

Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over a high heat. Add the garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds until lightly browned. Lower the heat to medium and add the sauce and bring to a boil before turning the heat down to a simmer.

Meanwhile, heat a frying pan to a medium – high heat. Add the pork belly piece to the pan and sear on all sides, ensuring the skin is well-sealed and golden brown.

Once seared, add the pork to the saucepan skin-side DOWN and baste well with the sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook, continuing to baste as you do so, for 5– 6 minutes. The sauce should start to caramelise and stick to the pork whilst basting.

Once the sauce is nicely caramelised around the meat, ensure the pork is skin-side down and pour over enough hot water to cover it completely. Stir everything together well, cover with a lid and leave to simmer over a low heat for 1 ½ hours, turning the pork occasionally, until the pork is soft, succulent and full of colour. After 1 ½ hours, remove the lid and add the eggs to the braising liquid and continue simmering for a further 30 minutes, turning the eggs every 10 minutes to ensure they absorb the sauce evenly. Garnish with coriander and serve.

Swapsies: If you cannot find fermented tofu, swap out the tofu with one of the hardboiled egg yolks, making a paste out of the yolk instead. The texture will thicken the sauce, much like the tofu does, giving the dish its silky finish.

Ways these lucky foods and dishes are prepared, served and eaten have a significant meaning in welcoming in the new year too.

For example, fish, which symbolises an increase in prosperity, should be placed towards elders or special guests to represent respect and it can only be enjoyed only after the one who faces the head eats first.

Here are some top Chinese New Year lucky foods and their symbolism:

  • Noodles – happiness and longevity
  • Dumplings and spring rolls – wealth
  • Tangyuan (sweet rice balls) – family togetherness
  • Niangao (glutinous rice cake) – higher income or status
  • Tangerines and oranges – fullness and wealth
  • Fish – an increase in prosperity

The Year of the Rooster begins from this Saturday, January 28 and lasts until Thursday, February 15, 2018.

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